The 'Da Vinci Code' of working hours: How important is time-keeping in workplace?

Some behaviours are conditioned by the fact that the upper hierarchy sit late as part of their workaholism, and it becomes awkward for the said employees to leave on time

By Sanjeev Pradhan Roy

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Published: Thu 9 Nov 2023, 8:45 PM

“Never get so busy making a living, that you forget to make a life” – Dolly Parton.

As we continue to grapple with archaic norms and contexts around how people should be governed still, the issue of how many working hours is enough is rising unnecessarily. Recent comments from industry luminaries like Narayan Murthy about the need for a 70 hours workweek for tangible progress, and the lively debate around it have hogged the mind space across talent aficionados. Not too long back, billionaire Jack Ma also espoused the 72 hours, 996 working week, for ‘real’ progress and employee productivity.

We witness such leadership and cultural patterns in many organisations, where those who sit late and maybe ‘warming’ their seats carry a better ‘perception’ impacting their growth and those who come and leave on time are secretly despised and even mocked about ‘leaving early’.

Some behaviours are conditioned by the fact that the upper hierarchy sit late as part of their workaholism, and it becomes awkward for the said employees to leave on time. This reeks of fiefdom rather than a professional mindset. The virtues of work life balance, mental health and family life are conveniently trashed, only to be flashed in the optics-laden communication and branding bytes.

Extreme working hours can also be seen in the startup ecosystem wherein the founding members work 24x7, fuelled by entrepreneurial passion and single-minded pursuit, where the clocks don’t exist and family life takes a beating for a period. It would not be fair to equate passion with long hours and vice versa though, as it is outcome dependent and not biometrics oriented in a borderless workplace nowadays.

The above conundrum brings to the fore an interesting phenomenon called Stockholm syndrome. It is related to the psychological discovery of someone’s psyche who has been made ‘captive’ and becomes somehow pliable to the captor’s nuisance value and becomes complicit over a period of time.

Toxic workplace dynamics and regressive culture manifest in the corporate Stockholm syndrome fostering lack of psychological safety, encourages negative behaviours such as excessive control, harassment, intimidation, belittling comments and aggression by the superiors on their teams.

The result is a sea of employees with no voice, who keep quiet about abuse and exploitation in the workplace to safeguard their jobs, be in the ‘good books’ and become zombies who just go with the flow, without much passion or zeal for their craft. Interestingly, rather than challenging and reporting such abuse, they start justifying it and learning to live with it, which further strengthens the abuser, and the cycle continues.

Instances of such behaviour have recently been seen in viral videos related to sales in banking and insurance, wherein clear intimidation and threats are meted out to the reporters by managers who think they ‘own’ the employees. Employers can act in educating, defining boundaries for zero tolerance, providing proactive forums for redressal and being sensitised to such uncouth behaviours and nip it in the bud.

Again a choice, that needs a definitive voice.

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